An ICU nurse struggles to reconcile repeated surgeries and transfusions for a comatose patient who has little chance of recovery. An oncology nurse knows a patient wants to refuse treatment but doesn’t do so because his physician and family want him to “fight on.” A nurse on a geriatric unit knows she’s not giving needed care to patients because of poor staffing.
Situations such as these are all too common and can give rise to moral distress. Moral distress occurs when nurses recognize their responsibility to respond to care situations but are unable to translate their moral choices into action.
As explained in “Moral Distress: A Catalyst in Building Moral Resilience,” one of the CE articles in our July issue, this “inability to act in alignment with one’s moral values is detrimental not only to the nurse’s well-being but also to patient care and clinical practice as a whole.”
Although moral distress is often characterized by feelings of powerlessness and victimization, the authors offer an alternate view, noting that situations that give rise to moral distress can provide opportunities for growth, empowerment, and increased moral resilience. This article outlines the concept and prevalence of moral distress, describes its impact, and discusses promising practices and interventions.
Read the article free here; you can earn 2.5 contact hours.